The mother of Arnaud Eboli told Reuters, ”He died in appalling conditions. He looked like an old man.”
Eboli, who died late Tuesday, had been ill for two years and was identified last autumn as France’s latest suspected victim of the fatal brain-wasting new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
Scientists suspect the disease can be passed from cattle to humans who eat beef infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Nearly 100 people have died in Europe from the disease — about 90 in Britain, three in France and one in Ireland — and there are several more suspected or confirmed sufferers.
News of Eboli’s death came as the French government urged town councils to put beef back on the menu in schools and communal canteens, insisting that it was safe to eat.
“All scientific studies to date have shown that the BSE agent is not present in the muscle of the animal,” a letter to mayors signed by five ministers said. “Since commercialized beef consists of muscle, it can be eaten without fear.”
A decision by many town councils to ban beef from menus has contributed to a sharp drop in consumption since a new scare over BSE erupted in France last year.
Eboli’s body was transferred to a hospital in Paris for post-mortem tests to confirm whether he was suffering from vCJD. The disease can be definitively diagnosed only through a brain biopsy.
Families of French victims of the disease, including the Ebolis, filed suit last November “against persons unknown” on poisoning and manslaughter charges.
The Eboli family has also campaigned for health authorities to provide guidance and assistance to families struggling to come to grips with the little-understood illness.